SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 471 - GrabCAD Workbench for SolidWorks

GrabCAD Workbench for SolidWorks:

This podcast covers the updates and new add-in for SolidWorks for the evolving GrabCAD engineering platform.  Every year when I come back to revisit what GrabCAD is up to I am amazing to their expanding offerings to the engineering community.  Topics covered:

An overview of GrabCAD Workbench

- The GCWB web UI

- Overview of the SolidWorks Add-In

- Use cases and workflow from within SolidWorks

- SolidWorks format support and integration with GrabCAD web service

- Overview of pricing plans and capabilities

- Overall thoughts.

The first time I mentioned GrabCAD on this show it was July 3rd, 2011 when they broke onto the scene with an engineering community and 3D CAD sharing site.  Since then we have kept an eye on their evolution over the years and last year they introduced their Workbench product which was a shift in their previous offerings.

Workbench was focused to tackle sharing and collaborating on private 3D data and provide browser-based viewing (WebGL), markup, measure and comment threads around design teams and their data.  A year ago I covered the newly launched Workbench and at that time it was primarily a web service, requiring upload of data via the web and somewhat disconnecting the CAD authoring tool from the collaboration service.

As Workbench began to get traction, they launched GrabCAD Toolbox which is a listing of partners they work with through add-ins, and other cloud service connections like with Lagoa.  With the launch of their SolidWorks add-in, GrabCAD has narrowed the barrier between desktop and cloud, allowing Workbench to become an in-process tool as well.  Versioning, file locking and auto sync with upload/download support give light PDM to any SolidWorks user.  I'm excited to see what else the folks at GradCAD will do next!  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 469 - Lagoa


Lagoa: Multi-Optics Cloud Rendering Engine

This podcast covers Lagoa, a cloud- based rendering engine that I first saw at SolidWorks World and was, hands-down, the most innovative, mind-blowing tech I have seen in years. Topics covered:

- Platform overview

- Features and options

- User Interface and Experience

- Collaborative environment

- Overall first impressions

This year at SolidWorks World, I made it a point to spend quality time in the partner pavilion, a place that seems to get the least of my time in previous years.  After 12 years of attending SolidWorks World, there has been a list of 3rd party products and services that have impressed me.  However, in today's engineering culture, the web is creeping into the equation and services tend to be more impressive than 3rd party local software.

Over the past 3-4 years, cloud services have made a move into the space, offering a number of collaborative layers to the traditional desktop environment.  Whether this was through task panes or other menus inside of SolidWorks, the services were still very tied to the desktop installation.

Lagoa is a cloud rendering software as a a service (SaaS) and not only offloads the rendering hardware and horsepower needed for high end processing, it offloads everything needed from your system.  Cameras, complex material and advanced lighting all at your control through a web browser tab!  Roll in some real-time collaboration, sharing and commenting and you have the ultimate rendering experience completely in the cloud.  Cool stuff!  ~Lou 

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 442 - Hosted vs. Cloud


Hosted vs. Cloud: 

This podcast covers the questions that rise when looking for and understanding the benefits and/or risks to moving to on premises solutions delivered via the Internet.  Topics covered:

- Some trends in the CAD industry

- Software as a service (SaaS)

- Platform as a service (PaaS)

- Benefits / Risks with off premises solutions

- My life in ChromeOS (4th generation device - Pixel)

Ever since the 2010 SolidWorks World Conference, the engineering world has been talking about the topic "CAD on the Cloud" and moving many on-premises products and services to servers hosted by another company.  Hosted services and cloud-based offerings are a normal staple in our everyday lives but how will these trends really apply to industries that rely on high-end, local hardware?

With services like GrabCAD Workbench, and Team Platform offering tools that are core to engineering and collaboration, it is only a matter of time till many of the tools we all use locally are offloaded to the cloud.  This is not without challenges however as Internet speeds increase and service

Autodesk recently announced a number of services in their 360 Cloud Services offering, one of which, Fusion 360, which reminds me of the pre-announced SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual.  Products like SImulation, PLM and other services seem to have targets to move to these platforms in the near future everywhere. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 439 - Sunglass Revision Management


Sunglass Revision Management:

This podcast is a first look at the new revision management feature set that was added to the popular 3D browser-based collaboration service  Revision tracking is a key feature to using today's CAD platforms however they are typically format specific or can be challenging to get outside parties (vendors/contractors) into the collaboration environment.  Topics covered:

- An overview of the updated UI of

- Understanding the SoilidWorks plugin and workflow

- Web viewer experience for collaborators

- Projects and Spaces in the Sunglass Dashboard

- Viewing / Comparing / Restoring Revisions

- User experience and workflow

- Overall impressions, a San Francisco 3D web-based collaboration start-up, has been very busy iterating over the past year and much of what was in the V1 service during the initial release has been refined.  This past week Sunglass announced a revision management layer to their 3D web viewer, co-viewing and other collaboration tools to help keep track of the various changes that occur during the design process.

PDM, product data management, tools are typically expensive, require hardware/infrastructure and implementation.  Although the end result can be very powerful however for small. remote groups this can be too expensive and overkill. Sunglass is attempting to address this common need by taking the hosting and setup out of the equation by introducing simple "push/pull" plugins for SolidWorks, Inventor, SketchUp and Rhino.  Pushing a revision up to Sunglass is easy, prompting for comments and syncing the changes up to the collaboration service with the push of a button.

This "Github for CAD" is starting to focus on some of the big challenges when it comes to 3D design.  I have been testing Sunglass since their launch and although many services support version tracking (uploading a file of the same name), their approach is more streamlined to how CAD users work.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 417 - TeamPlatform



This podcast covers a cloud-based service for design teams to collaborate, communicate and manage their projects called TeamPlatform.  Topics covered:

- Signup process and subscription options

- Dashboard (your TP at a glance)

- Workspaces & Pages

- File uploads and 3D CAD support

- Discussions and Tasks

- Sharing Controls (private & public

- Overall impressions

I am thrilled to see that the cloud-based, collaboration arena for 3D continues bring new players to the table with their own take on how it is to be done.  I have often brought up SolidWorks 3DTeamWorks on this show since it was a product so far ahead of its time and TeamPlatform  reminds me of that on steroids.

Services like and GrabCAD have emerged for different reasons but ultimately making the ability to view 3D CAD on the cloud a browser based tool.  TeamPlatform packs project management, file collaboration and version control all into a hosted space with a nuumber of uses.  It reminds me of an Engineering focused version of BaseCamp from 37 Signals.

I love the fact that the folks at TeamPlatform also have pushed their API up to GitHub and provided a number of methods to connect via their API (paid versions) to integrate this service into the numerous tools being used inside your company.

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 398 - Windows Azure


Windows Azure:

This podcast covers a process that I started this week to offload any SolidWorks services to a new hosted service provided by Microsoft called Windows Azure.  Topics covered:

- What the heck is Azure?

- What services does this provide?

- What does this have to do with SolidWorks?

- What circumstances does this service make sense for companies.

- My trials with Enterprise PDM and Azure

- Other SolidWorks services might make sense?

After a busy week of EPDM migrations, working remotely and having to use various services for access to internal servers, I decided to use this as an opportunity to dig into the new service by Microsoft.  I have been reading/listen about Microsoft's next platform move to compete with the hosted services provided by Amazon for years.  

With Microsoft's service coming with a 90 day trial and access to all the offerings for a whopping $0, I thought I should test out what can be done.  With so many industries moving to the cloud for many of the server side products, I wanted to test the idea of moving Enterprise PDM to test things like performance and simplicity of deployment.

I can imagine Azure and services like it could provide options to other SolidWorks products like SolidNetwork License manger, WPDM server, Flow Simulation install for batch solving, etc.  I  also recently updated my laptop and installed Office 2013 and share my results of that. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 346 - CAD Mobility

CAD Mobility:

This podcast covers the challenge of getting access to our CAD & engineering tools when we are on the go. Web-based apps can do a lot more than people give credit and I found a way to live on the web and still access all my tools all in the browser! Topics covered:

- Importance of mobile access

- Mobile apps vs Web apps (pros/cons)

- Findings using the Chromebook for a month

- Using SparkGateway to access my thick-client engineering tools

- Remote Desktop access with clients vs client-less

With my Chromebook experiment in full swing (just over a month now), I have been looking for ways to access the tools and services that I only have access on my workstation.  With the popularity of mobile computing and access from anywhere, I wanted to find a way to get to my workstation tools without the need for device specific clients and solutions to achieve this goal.

When it comes to mobile apps, they all achieve one goal and that is to deliver the best experience for that service or tool on the device you are on.  The unfortunate drawback is the experience is different for each device (desktop, tablet, netbook or phone).  This is why I am much more a fan of web apps and how they can be taylored by device but be streamlined by every experience.

Finding RemoteSpark, a Canadian-based company which specializes in the best remote access tools, has delivered a full HTML5 tool that doesn't run any code on the client or the RDP host.  Their SparkGateway, a lightweight JAVA-based app, runs and can allow full desktop access all through the browser.  This gives all of my devices, desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, phone, and Chromebook,  the same access to those tools that are not yet on the cloud. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 342 - Future of CAD

Future of CAD:

This podcast covers my thoughts on the Future of CAD and how things seem to be progressing on the tech front. Topics covered:

- A little background where this topic creeped into the cast

- How engineering tools were like in the early 90's

- Today's CAD landscape

- Parallels in moving to Google Apps & the Future of CAD

- The definition of a "real" web app 

- Hopes for the future of CAD

Two weeks ago I received a shipment from my dad that contained a number childhood memories, one of which was an Armatron.  This 12" tall, 6-axis robotic arm that had two joysticks and was fully operational that finalized my love of robotics as a kid.  This same toy was the focus of a Freshman year project in my ME tools course with CADKey and it got me thinking about how much the tools have changed in just a segment of my life.

Over the past 1.5 years my switch to Google Apps for all our corporate email, calendar, docs, chat and internal intranet I see a shift in how we use services and applications. It did not come without some frustrations and trials but overall the switch has been very positive and has grown many areas of our business.

And then there is mobile. No-one wants "an app for that" (at least I don't) but they want to be able to access their content where they are, on what they have, and be expected to do what is "device appropriate".  I personally do not like the "APP" model but prefer the web model so any device that has a browser is in play.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 339 - SolidWorks n!Fuze

SolidWorks n!Fuze:

This podcast covers the final launch of SolidWorks n!Fuze which had been preannounced 2 times over the past 2 years as SolidWorks PDS (Product Data Sharing) and SolidWorks Connect respectively.  Topics covered:

- Re-introduction of n!Fuze and the SwYm Community interface

- How to get signed up for an n!Fuze trial

- Installation and usage of the SolidWorks Add-in

- Use and plugin installation for the n!Fuze Web Portal.

- Prequisites for n!Fuze Add-in and Web Portal

- Quick overview of the n!Fuze release notes

- Pricing

Since SolidWorks World 2010 the SolidWorks community has been introduced to the promise of hosted applications, one of which was first shown as SolidWorks PDS.  Around July 2010, news via the blog squad, had talked about the continued development of the PDS product, code named Connect.  This then took us to SolidWorks World 2011 where n!Fuze was pre-announced on Sunday before SolidWorks World had begun.

n!Fuze went into beta around April and then again in June but both were very private beta which did make it a bit hard to test with other users.  On July 1 SolidWorks put n!Fuze up on the DS Store as a released product for purchase but also allow for a 30 day trial (no credit card need).

In this episode I try to outline the details of both the SolidWorks and Web experience in order to get people interested in the trial.  I think the need for this service is growing however the experience is somewhat forign to the masses.  SolidWorks' n!Fuze project manager, John Ellisworth, is asking for feedback so I suggest if this is a product you believe could solve communication problems, get to the trial and give SolidWorks feedback, good or bad.

As far as the mobile options for this service, an iPhone and iPad app should be out "later this year" and other platforms are to follow.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 334 - n!Fuze Beta Testing

n!Fuze Beta Testing:

This podcast covers the pending service offering from SolidWorks built on the 3DSwYm platform from Dassault Systemes.  Topics covered:

- Overview of n!Fuze the service

- Client types (web, SolidWorks and iPad)

- "What we pubically know" about n!Fuze (UI, pricing model and storage options)

- Outline of n!Fuze vs other online storage/collaboration tools

- Concerns, hopes/dreams!

This past week I was informed that Beta 3 had begun and that it was going to be invite only and about a week long.  With the promise of a public beta to follow, I wanted to talk about this service and what information we do know pubically about it and what it's goals are as a service.

Back in April we had a SolidWorks User Summit and SolidWorks and I shared a lot of details about the product, what the experience was like as well as some of the pricing and option model that will be offered at first release.  Hosted, version controlled repositories are nothing new (Dropbox, Box.Net, Google Docs) but what is unique about n!Fuze is the understanding of the associative model and tree structure.

I look forward to digging into the service again this week but the unfortunate thing about testing early is the pool of testers is small.  The phase of beta will allow outside invites so if you are interested in testing n!Fuze with me, send me an email and I would be happy to invite you to help me out.

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